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The Beavers start strong, and then hold on for a 5-4 victory in Tuesday's non-league contest

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Beaverton High School junior Jack Hanson (left) gets to first base as Tigard senior Sam Gerkman stretches to make a catch during Tuesday's game.TIGARD — Sure, on the schedule it was just a non-league game.

For the Beaverton High School baseball team, it meant nothing in the Metro League standings. For Tigard, it didn't have any effect on their placing in the Three Rivers League ranks.

But the game certainly seemed to mean a lot to both the Beavers and Tigers — and they played like it.

Beaverton got off to a strong start and then fought off Tigard late in the contest to get a 5-4 victory over the Tigers in a non-league contest played Tuesday at Tigard High School.

"Both teams really battled," said Beaverton junior Kellen O'Connor, who was the winning pitcher in addition to getting three hits at the plate. "It's was a big game for the rankings. We knew we couldn't take it lightly."

"These games really do matter, and we know that," said Tigard senior Cameron Laroche, who had two hits and pitched three strong innings in relief. "We took it as seriously as we could, but we just didn't come out on top."

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Beaverton senior catcher Phoenix Forrester tags out Tigard junior Tyler Penn on a stolen base attempt during Tuesday's non-league game. With the victory, Beaverton improved to 9-4 on the season.

"We just need to keep focusing," O'Connor said. "We need to keep pounding in the runs, because we kind of fell off. We just need to keep going. We have a lot to take away from this game, but a victory is a victory."

Tigard moved to 8-6 with the setback.

"This one hurts. There are some games you're supposed to win, and we thought this was one of them," Laroche said. "We just need to get going earlier, and we need to make the small plays defensively, because there were a few small plays that we didn't make that came back to bite us."

Beaverton got off to a strong start to Tuesday's game, getting a couple of runs in the top of the first inning. Senior Sam Wagner Forster got things started for the Beavers with a one-out single to center field. Forster moved to second base on a balk call, and then advanced to third on a single by O'Connor. Then, after junior Cooper Martineau walked to load the bases, Forster scored from third on a wild pitch, giving Beaverton a 1-0 lead.

O'Connor would score from third on a groundout by sophomore Trent Walker later in the inning, upping the Beaver lead to 2-0 at the end of the frame.

Beaverton got another run in the top of the second. Walks by junior Logan McRae and Foster, and an infield single by O'Connor, loaded the bases with two outs. Martineau then drew a walk, forcing in McRae, upping the margin to 3-0.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Beaverton High School junior Kellen O'Connor gets ready to fire a pitch to the plate during the Beavers' 5-4 win at Tigard on Tuesday.Tigard started battling back in the bottom of the second. Laroche, leading off the frame, doubled down the right-field line. Junior Mikey McNamee followed with a single to right. Junior Ethan Clark then lofted a run-scoring sacrifice fly to center field, making the score 3-1.

Senior C.J. Hilgaertner, senior Caden Stinson and senior Sam Gerkman then drew consecutive walks, with Stinson and Gerkman walking on 3-2 pitches. McNamee was forced in from third on Gerkman's walk, cutting the lead to 3-2.

O'Connor got a strikeout and he coaxed a fly-ball out to center field to prevent any more damage.

Beaverton would eventually answer with a pair of runs in the top of the fourth inning.

Senior Connor Patrick, leading off the frame, was hit by a pitch. One out later, O'Connor singled to center field, with Patrick moving to third on the hit. O'Connor then stole second base after being caught in a rundown. Patrick ended up stealing home on the plate, making the score 4-2.

O'Connor would then steal third base and score on a sacrifice fly by junior John Oleson, upping the margin to 5-2.

But Tigard came battling back in the bottom of the fifth inning. Senior Fletcher Ahl led off the frame with a single to right field. Laroche followed with his own single to right, with Ahl moving to third on the hit. Ahl then scored on a groundout by junior Ben Barbee, cutting the lead to 5-3.

Courtesy runner Tyler Penn then stole third base on a pickoff attempt, and scored on a Beaverton throwing error on the play, trimming the margin to 5-4.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tigard junior shortstop Ethan Clark makes a throw to first base during the Tigers' game with Beaverton on Tuesday.The Tigers tried to continue their rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. Sophomore Josh Schleichardt got things started with a one-out single to left field. Senior Lance Kreisberg followed with a single up the middle and Ahl then ripped a line-drive single to right field, loading the bases with one out.

Tigard then looked to have scored the tying and go-ahead runs when Beaverton committed what looked to be a throwing error on a double-play attempt following a grounder by Laroche, but Ahl, going to second base on the play, was called for interference, and the Beavers were awarded an inning-ending double play.

Walker, pitching in relief for Beaverton, put Tigard down in order in the bottom of the seventh, wrapping up the Beavers' hard-fought 5-4 victory.

"We found the little things, and took advantage of those in finding ways to score," O'Connor said. "The last couple innings, the defense massive. It was huge."

O'Connor, in getting the pitching win, gave up four runs on seven hits, while striking out two and walking five in four-and-a-third innings of work.

"It was iffy at the start. The second inning was a little bit of a struggle, but I believed in myself and I believed in my team," he said. "We got out of it and, back in that fifth inning, it was kind of the same thing. They were hitting it pretty good. But I just trusted myself a lot more, and I believed in my team behind me. I knew they'd make the plays."

Walker, pitching the final two-and-two-thirds innings, gave up no runs on three hits, while striking out three and walking none.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Beaverton sophomore shortstop Trent Walker (right) gets ready to put a tag on Tigard sophomore Josh Schleichardt on a stolen base attempt during Tuesday's non-league game.O'Connor went 3 for 4 at the plate with three stolen bases and a pair of runs scored. Forster went 1 for 2 with a run. McRae and Patrick scored the other two Beaverton runs.

For Tigard, Laroche went 2 for 3 at the plate with a double and a run scored.

"I felt good," he said. "I always try to put the ball in play, because good things will happen."

McNamee went 2 for 3 with a run scored. Ahl went 2 for 4 with a run scored. Schleichardt went 2 for 4.

Ahl, starting the game on the mound for Tigard, gave up three runs (two earned) on three hits, while striking out four and walking five in two innings of work. Laroche, throwing the next three innings, gave up two runs on two hits, while striking out one and walking two. Senior Bobby Carter, throwing the final two innings, gave up no runs on no hits, while striking out one.

"We started off slow. It was a rough start," Laroche said. "Defensively, we made a few mistakes. And obviously, we were down after that last call, but we all know that we needed to get it done earlier, and capitalize defensively. We battled, and that was a positive note."

Beaverton will be back in action on Wednesday, when it plays at Glencoe in a non-league game starting at 5 p.m. Tigard will host Glencoe on Thursday in a non-league tilt starting at 4:30 p.m.

PMG PHOTO: DAN BROOD - Tigard senior pitcher Fletcher Ahl makes a throw to first on a pickoff play during the Tigers' game with Beaverton on Tuesday.On Tuesday, Beaverton will return to Metro League play when it hosts Southridge at 5 p.m. Tigard will be home to play Canby on Tuesday in a Three Rivers League contest starting at 4:30 p.m.

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